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On Tuesday, 10 April, CAFI, represented by 5 Board members and its Secretariat, convened a number of INGOs (CIFOR, CIRAD, EFI, ETH Zurich, FERN, Tropenbos, WCS, WRI, WWF), development partners (AFD, UNDP, FAO), and representatives of the DRC government and civil society.

The objective: to discuss and deconstruct the complexity and trends of the forest sector in the Central African region.

Acting as a catalyst, the awarding of illegal logging concession by the Minister of Environment in DRC sparked a series of exchanges between CAFI – the secretariat, its partners and donors - and a number of International NGO’s (INGO) in the weeks prior. Questions were raised about CAFI’s approach in Central Africa, and particularly the DRC.

CAFI champions the belief that the prevention of forest loss demands a holistic approach, and, while there is general agreement on the drivers of deforestation - primarily agriculture, wood energy, forestry, mining and oil, infrastructure, land use planning, land tenure, demography, and governance - their relative impact is debated by some.  

Logging concessions are pointed to as a major culprit, however, 96% of the total volume of wood harvested in DRC is for fuelwood, the rest for timber. Of this remaining 4%, only about 10% is harvested by logging concessions - the lowest harvest volumes amongst Central African countries.  Despite this, CAFI does not support the recently awarded concessions, which were also in breach of the 2002 moratorium, and as a result all CAFI funding for the forest sector is frozen and will remain so, until their reversal (see public statement).

The roundtable manifested as a frank and cordial dialogue, from which the sentiment emerged that continued research and collaboration to prevent the loss of Central African forests is necessary.

 THE HOT QUESTIONS:

  •        Is a forest management that is sustainable across all dimensions (carbon, biomass, species, social, economic) possible in the region?
  •        Can our collective knowledge help transform the dynamic political landscape of DRC from a challenge to solution?
  •        What do we know about who is producing, and how much? Who is consuming, and how much? Where are the biggest markets?
  •        How do we deal with the legal status [or lack thereof] of forest land – when it comes to pressure from other sectors such agriculture?
  •        How to deal with the preponderance of informal logging?
  •        To what extent community forestry is a viable option to meet domestic demand?
  •        How to resolve the confusion surrounding tenure rights and community forestry as a type of logging operation?

TOPICS DISCUSSED (AGENDA)

What does CAFI do in CentralAfrica?

CAFI opened with a presentation of its work across all six member countries in the Central African region, including a debrief of the recent high-level mission to Congo- Brazzaville.

This was a chance for Head of CAFI Secretariat, Berta Pesti to remind participants of CAFI’s two equally important impacts, “1) reduce pressure on forests and; 2) generate dividends for the general population and the economy.”

Amongst the group, CAFI’s use of a Letter Of Intent (LOI) was recognised as a unique tool to engage policy dialogue with governments at a high and cross-sectoral level (currently adopted for the DRC and Gabon).

Trends and data

ETH- Zurich presented data and insights regarding current debates and consensus on the impacts of the forestry sector in the region. Whilst acknowledging the consensus around the regeneration of carbon stocks after logging, it was also recognised that there is no universal time reference for full regeneration.

WRI followed with a presentation on trends of forest loss in DRC. The strong correlation with shifting cultivation was highlighted, yet it was stressed that “Not all shifting cultivation is created equal”, and that shifting cultivation patterns need to be better understood.

The situation in the DRC

The afternoon kicked off with a presentation of the CAFI portfolio in DRC. The group discussed regional trends in the forest sector, highlighting issues related to transparency, before exploring the topic of artisanal logging in DRC, underlining its largely informal nature, but also the revenue it generates for local populations.

Based on experience in the DRC, Tropenbos and WWF reflected on the costs of formalization as prohibitive, stating that artisanal loggers need support to reduce the costs; through policy dialogue, organization of associations, etc.

The DRC Sustainable Forest Management programme

AFD presented the Sustainable Forest Management project proposal - that had previously sparked much public debate.

Able to demystify some of the misconceptions surrounding the project, the group responded positively to the idea of strengthened governance in the forestry sector and improved capacity for compliance monitoring. Exchanges focused on the need for the specific consideration of peatlands, the role of decentralized entities in forest management, and the need to capitalize on civil society experience with community forestry.

And now…

There are still many questions that need to be addressed. The consensus: We’ll be stronger and more capable of preventing Central African forest loss if we exchange data and information, cooperate and collaborate.

Keen to continue this dialogue, CAFI will organize other opportunities to discuss on a range of topics. Land use planning will be the main focus of the CAFI Annual Forum that will be held right after the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum in June 2018.  

Find out more about why CAFI is in the DRC.

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